Lafayette Wants Comedian To Pay Legal Fees After Falling For Joke
Free speech is getting a workout in Lafayette, and in Louisiana's court systems.
Back in 2020, a comedian who ran a Facebook meme page called "cajUUUn Memes" posted a clearly fake event on his page. That event was called "ANTIFA takes River Ranch". It was an obvious satire post, clearly indicated by the original language of the event's description. The page, and joke, were created by comedian John Merrifield.
However the obvious satire fooled the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) and Lafayette Police Department.
After the embarrassment of getting hooked by the joke, the LCG and Police Department decided they would get aggressive, and sue the comedian at the center of the joke. These government entities, led by LCG Mayor-President Josh Guillory (one of the gullible parties who fell for the joke), decided to use tax-payer dollars to take on the comedian.
Their lawsuit alleges that the joke caused "panic" and cost the LCG "considerable sums of money".
Which, side note, what part of falling for this joke cost "considerable sums of money"? The fact they filmed little videos for their LCG social media? Having the Police Department issue a statement? What does that cost, maybe $15? I feel like this "considerable sum of money" is more about a considerable hit to someone's pride.
Anyway. LCG moved to sue Merrifield for making them the punchline of a joke. On the surface, it seems like a free speech case against a Facebook meme page would be a quick one to win in court. But it hasn't gone that way for Merrifield.
A motion from the comedian's attorneys to strike the lawsuit was argued all the way up to the Louisiana Supreme Court, who ruled this case can proceed. Which it is. But now it has taken another bizarre turn.
Now LCG is asking for even more money from the comedian. They now want him to pay $30,000 in attorney fees, in addition to what they're already suing him for. However a judge isn't letting the LCG just skate by on this one.
LCG lawyers appeared this week in front of a judge and said the comedian owes them $33,047.50 in fees. This would bring the totals being sought from Merrifield to around $100,000.
But when the comedian's lawyers pointed out there are no invoices, or bills, to reflect that number, the judge asked why. The LCG lawyers, the ones trying to get paid here, told the judge that revealing the total would "reveal LCG's strategy in the case". The judge agreed that without the invoices, there's no way to know the total. So he took a look.
The judge told LCG's lawyers they will have to redact anything they think is "strategy" and bring it to court next month to show the total.
Again, these lawsuits are all being fought using tax dollars. If Merrifield is able to keep his First Amendment rights in this case, all of those tax payer funds being used to fight against free speech will be burned. Not to mention how much Merrifield could counter-sue the LCG for.
This could be the most expensive response to a joke, from someone not named Will Smith, we've seen in a while.
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